Mission of Deeds: Lifting People Up in Tough Times


Reading’s Mission of Deeds. Photo from https://www.missionofdeeds.org/contact/

Aidan O'Brien ('22), Orbit Contributor


That was the appalling number of unemployed workers in Massachusetts at the height of the pandemic in April of 2020, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. The rate of unemployment during April 2020 went as high as 16.4%, an all-time high for the Commonwealth.

Although this percentage has since dropped to 4.6% as of October 2021, the effects of pandemic are still felt for all. For many Massachusetts citizens, the “new normal” has brought a new struggle to meet the inflated demands of bills, taxes, and most crucially rent prices. The median gross rent cost in the town of Reading has grown to $1,354 per month, a number that is $300 more than the national average. 

Getting People Off The Floor

For the Mission of Deeds, a Reading-based charitable organization, their goal has always been to establish a home for each and every client. And with this upturn in unemployment and rent prices, the sense of a comfortable home has been difficult to come by for many Reading citizens. That feeling of comfort can be found through furniture, which for someone who is struggling to keep up with bills and rent is nowhere near the front of their minds. This is where the Mission of Deeds (MoD) comes in.

Without our service people coming out of homelessness would literally be sleeping on the floor

— Bruce Murison

The non-profit organization was founded in 1993 by Somerville native Tony Triglione. Triglione settled on a spot on Chapin Avenue, right off of Main Street in the center of Reading. According to present-day Executive Director Bruce Murison, “One of the phrases Triglione used so often was to ‘Get people off the floor,’ and what he meant by that was without our service people coming out of homelessness would literally be sleeping on the floor.” Triglione’s mission was to literally and figuratively “get people off the floor”, to help those including the homeless, victims of domestic violence, elders without support, refugees, displaced veterans, and the disabled. Tony was a vital member of the greater Reading area, changing people’s lives for the better one client at a time. Although Triglione may have passed away 10 years ago, his presence is still seen and felt throughout the organization, and there is a real sense of respect and admiration towards the man. 

That respect is something that Mr. Bruce Murison holds highly. Murison built onto Triglione’s memorable quote by saying, “It’s a great thing being able to see people getting help… people will come in kind of nervous, but then they go away with a truck full of things and they’re happy…we’re making lives a little better for people in need.”

Challenges of the Pandemic

Murison and the rest of the staff all appreciate the in-person engagement that Murison describes. But this hasn’t always been the case. Before the pandemic, the volunteers at MoD needed to work with a group of people called caseworkers who served as the middleman between the organization and the people who were in need of help. So when the pandemic came, according to Murison, “We closed for about 10 weeks at the beginning of the real emergency phase of the pandemic in March 2020… everybody we help comes through a case-worker, and the case-workers themselves had all sorts of restrictions.”

The absence of caseworkers allowed the MoD’s associates to work with clients personally, and these relationships really thrived. According to Murison, “We were keeping up with everything caseworkers send us, and with client calls we can get people with what they need within 2-3 weeks which is what our standard is…since COVID began, we have serviced over 750 households… So, when people say, ‘Oh boy, when are we going to be back to normal?’ from the point of view of those 750 clients we’re back to normal.” These are great numbers, as prospects of what the future held for the MoD during the beginning of the pandemic weren’t the most optimistic.

Thanks to these men and women, over 750 households were furnished.

Supply Chain Issues

But as much as the organization has triumphed through the pandemic, there have been bumps along the way. As all small businesses and organizations know over the past 2 years supply chains for almost every item that is sold and manufactured has been decelerated. This pause in the supply chains has had its effects on the MoD, especially on their most in-demand product: beds. Murison expanded on this, saying, “Every part of the bed is purchased: new mattress, a new box spring, new linens, new pillow… the company we were buying our mattresses from had a problem and they did not open after Covid, and the new company we went to had problems getting raw materials for manufacturing, so in 2020 we were having some disruptions in finding beds.” Although this made it more difficult to find beds for clients, Murison went on to say, “We never failed to get a client what they needed but our inventory was very low and prices went up. Now supply is flowing better, but prices are high.”

For everyone involved in the process of giving or receiving the items that the MoD provides, there is a strong sense of resilience. The past two years we’ve seen a crippling pandemic along with ever-growing rent prices, high unemployment rates, and an overall greater sense of fear in the American people. Under these circumstances, the heroes at the Mission of Deeds stepped up when the marginalized men and women of the Reading community needed them the most. Thanks to these men and women, over 750 households were furnished. That’s 750 truckloads of beds, chairs, couches, drawers, and more. 750 people in times of need who made their house or apartment a real home.

So the next time you drive by Chapin Ave and see the Mission of Deeds sign, just know that although it might just look like a store full of furniture, thousands of people in our community can thank it for helping them at times when they needed help the most.  To donate to Mission of Deeds, visit their website here.